Schwarzenegger’s Education Plan: Simplistic, Bad

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One of the odd things about policymaking in a deep recession is that it encourages politicians to think in terms of Get Solvent Quick budgeting gimmicks. There’s the college tuition freeze. There’s President Obama’s budget freeze.

And then there is the state of California, where earlier this month Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed amending the state constitution to compel the state to spend more money on higher education than it spends on prisons. The College Guide was unsupportive. According to an article yesterday in the San Jose Mercury News, so is the state’s accounting office:

A plan by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to shift state money from prisons to universities is “simplistic” and a bad idea, the Legislative Analyst’s Office said Tuesday.

The proposed constitutional amendment, introduced in a speech earlier this month, would place dangerous restrictions on a state budget already plagued by spending limits, the nonpartisan office said in the report. Lawmakers should reject the reform, which has not yet been formally proposed, the report said.

Under Schwarzenegger’s proposed constitutional amendment, California would be required to spend at least 10 percent of its budget on higher education and less than 7 percent of the budget on prisons.

The report says that it’s inappropriate to conduct budgeting in this manner, as it would pit the prison system against the, otherwise unrelated, university system. Furthermore, limiting prison spending to 7 percent of the budget is troublesome because “it could be extremely difficult for the state to keep its spending on corrections under the prescribed limit without significant — perhaps radical — changes to the criminal-justice system.”

Schwarzenegger’s office indicated that the governor stands behind his proposal.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer